We invite all members of the UCLA community to join us in standing against hate speech, bias, and double standards, and to help build bridges between communities in order to create a more constructive discourse on campus.
Bruins for Israel calls for accountability and a respectful, positive campus climate
As the representatives of Bruins for Israel, we officially express our disdain for and unequivocal denunciation of anti-Israel hate speech, biased and unethical pledges, and attacks on members of the Jewish and pro-Israel communities that have occurred at UCLA in recent months.
On February 25, 2014, Students for Justice in Palestine presented the Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC) with a resolution calling for the divestment of university funds from five companies that do business with Israel. As the ancient homeland of the Jewish people and the world’s only Jewish state, Israel is an integral part of our community’s identity, as well as the identity of a vast majority of Jews around the world. Because of this, we were extremely concerned about divestment and the effect it would have on our community — it turned out that our concerns were justified. Despite claims that the resolution was focused on corporate complicity in human rights violations, many of the comments made during the divestment hearing included unacceptable hate speech and slander directed at Israel itself, as well as pro-Israel students at UCLA.
For nine hours, pro-divestment students were allowed to make condescending and slanderous statements, many of which amounted to hate speech. The following is a non-exhaustive list of slanderous and hateful claims made that night:
- Israelis deliberately shoot Palestinian children in the face.
- Israel is guilty of genocide against Palestinians.
- Israel sterilized and mutilated Ethiopian immigrants as a form of eugenics.
- Violence against Israelis is justified
The entire list, along with comprehensive responses debunking the lies or misleading claims, can be found here.
In addition, there were numerous offensive statements directed at our community. We heard the term “Zionist” used as a dirty word, as if supporting the indigenous rights, liberation, and self-determination of a historically oppressed minority is something to be ashamed of.
We were condescendingly told that:
- Divestment does not threaten us — a statement that disregarded our voices and denied our community’s right to define how USAC actions do or do not affect us.
- Jews who oppose divestment are tying Jewish identity to oppression, racism, and human rights violations — an extremely dehumanizing accusation which silenced and caricatured our actual concerns about the issue.
- Our “white privilege” invalidated our concerns — an offensive attempt to mislabel and stifle the voices of a diverse population of pro-Israel students.
Worst of all, we heard speakers attempt to delegitimize our objections by redefining the term “anti-Semitism.” While it is true that Semitic people include Arabs and non-Jews, the term “anti-Semitism” was first introduced in late 19th century Germany as a “scientific-sounding” alternative to the term Judenhass (“Jew-hatred”). Thus, despite containing a derivative of the word “Semite,” the term anti-Semitism has historically only been defined as hatred of the Jewish people specifically. Attempting to change the meaning of the term is not just a blatant misuse of language, but it effectively minimizes the 1,900 year history of racism and oppression targeted specifically against Jews in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere.
We find the “ethics statement” released to potential student body representatives offensive and unethical. This hypocritical statement exclusively attacks the organized Jewish and pro-Israel communities at UCLA and insinuates that any association with Israel is dishonorable. The statement is a petty attempt to prevent future UCLA leaders from educating themselves about Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is shameful that when student leaders seek to gain knowledge and insight on such a complex and contentious issue, they are intimidated and accused of being biased.
If USAC is going to continue debating geopolitical issues and putting Israel’s existence on trial through divestment hearings, we expect our USAC representatives to not only educate themselves on public policy, but to be able to accept opportunities to visit Israel and witness the country for themselves. Demanding that student government officials at our world-renowned research university resign their right to education and freedom of association to a political litmus test is despicable.
There have been several instances in which members of the pro-Israel community have been attacked and slandered as “Islamophobic, genocide deniers, and human-rights violators.” These offensive and dehumanizing attacks represent a vile and unwarranted verbal assault on not only the organized Jewish community at UCLA, but all pro-Israel students.
As representatives of the organized Jewish and pro-Israel communities at UCLA, we see lies and hate speech as more than just a cause of discomfort. In the past, lies about the Jewish people have led directly to mass violence and oppression against us. The systematic promotion of egregious lies about the one Jewish state in the world cannot be divorced from this historical context. As Bruins and as human beings, we have a responsibility to learn from history and not allow its ugliest chapters to be repeated. We see this as a matter of upholding truth and standing on the right side of history, and we hope our fellow Bruins will see it that way too.
Bruins for Israel now calls for:
- The 2014-2015 UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC) to denounce all forms of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism perpetuated at the divestment hearing and work towards ensuring civility and respect in future discourse about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- The 2014-2015 UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC) to denounce the biased “ethics statement” and draft a new statement that works towards building understanding between communities rather than destroying campus climate.
- The UCLA Administration to take tangible steps to prioritize a positive campus climate and inclusive academic discourse for all.
There is much work to be done to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and bring lasting peace to the region. Because we strongly believe that education and dialogue are the only way to overcome ignorance and hate, we invite all members of the UCLA community, regardless of where they stand, to meet and discuss these issues with us. We hope that this will be the beginning of a more civil, positive, and constructive conversation on our campus.
Working in active support of mutual understanding, acceptance, and a truly positive campus climate,
Bruins for Israel
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